Welcome to Week 17.
Here are five final thoughts ahead of the Chargers-Rams matchup:
1. Joey Bosa set to return
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Friday that the Bolts plan to activate Joey Bosa from Injured Reserve this weekend, setting the stage for his return to the field.
Staley said Bosa, who had been out since Week 3, will likely be on somewhat of a snap count in his first game in four months.
"He's got to get his football conditioning just like everybody else," Staley said. "It's not like he's going to go out there and play like he's been playing for four months.
"But he's going to go out there and play," Staley said. "That was our plan. If he's going to play, he's going to play."
But there's no doubt the Chargers will gladly welcome back a player with 59.5 career sacks who is a four-time Pro Bowler.
"We didn't want to designate him to return if we feel like he wasn't capable of going out there and performing," Staley said. "Looked good in the practices. Part of his return to play will be getting out there and playing football. Excited to see him compete."
Khalil Mack added: "You look at what he's done over the course of his career, it's always fun when you got a guy like that out there on the other side."
Bosa's return gives the Chargers the 1-2 pass-rushing punch they envisioned with Mack and Bosa during training camp.
And while Bosa will ease his way back into things, Mack said he expects him on the field for third downs and key moments.
Bosa on Thursday went into detail on his recovery from groin surgery, revealing that he dealt with issues on his left side for the past two seasons.
The 27-year-old said he was overcompensating with his right side, which led to him getting injured in the first quarter against the Jaguars.
"It tore completely," said Bosa, who added that he had surgery on both sides on his body.
Staley said Friday that Bosa's previous situation wasn't one that required surgery, but it did mean he has to make sure his body was good to go for practices and games.
"If you observe Joey before practice, you'll observe that he's a guy that needs to get tuned up," Staley said. "I think you're seeing is a guy that was really pushing through a lot. And it wasn't inhibiting his play … but these guys go through a lot.
"It just shows you how tough of a player he really is," Staley added. "What's been amazing for me to see is how he feels now. There's a peace there. I'm excited to see him go play football like I know he knows how."
That opportunity comes Sunday against the Rams.
2. The Battle of LA
A few months ago, the Week 17 matchup between the Chargers and Rams had the potential to be one of the best of the year.
Both teams entered the season with high playoff expectations. The Rams, of course, were coming off a Super Bowl, while the Bolts seemed poised to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
The Chargers held up their end of things, punching their postseason ticket Monday night.
But as both Los Angeles teams battled through a plethora of injuries this season, the Rams find themselves at 5-10 and eliminated from playoff contention.
Staley commented on the crosstown matchup that will take place Sunday afternoon.
The Chargers will be the home team at SoFi Stadium, a venue the teams share but will met at for the first time.
"We are all in the same market. More than anything, it's a really good football team," Staley said of the Rams. "I think that good rivalries come from the quality of play. They have had high-quality play ever since Sean [McVay] has been there. I think that the matchup is going to bring out the best in both teams."
The Bolts currently sit at 9-6 and are in the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
And while the Chargers know the will be a Wild Card squad, a win Sunday ensures they will finish at least as the sixth seed. A Bolts victory would get them to 10 on the season, which is the most 8-win Miami can get to. The Chargers, of course, have head-to-head win over Dolphins.
The Chargers path to multiple playoff seeds will be clearer after Monday night's matchup between the Bills and Bengals.
Until then, the Bolts sole focus is continuing their hot streak and gearing up for the postseason.
"The focus is the same as always," said quarterback Justin Herbert. "It's very important to attack this week like it's the most important game of the [year].
"This is a really good Rams team that we're facing and we've had to have a great week of practice for any chance on Sunday," Herbert added. "They're playing pretty well offensively and defensively, so we've had to watch a lot of film, but we've got a lot of respect for these guys."
3. Fine-tuning the offense
Entering Week 17, the Chargers offense ranks 11th overall in the league with 355.0 yards per game. And the Bolts are close behind in points per game, too, ranking 13th with 22.1.
Overall, that's good company for the Chargers to be in.
Eight of the top 11 teams in yards per game have clinched a playoff spot, and eight of the top 13 teams in points per game are also in the dance.
But the vibe around the Bolts is that they feel like they could be a little more consistent on offense before the playoffs begin.
"I think we are trying to find our rhythm a little bit. We have had some good drives over the last few games, but we haven't been real consistent," said Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi. "The guys that have been coming back, getting them worked in and just finding our rhythm. We are approaching it like any other game.
"We are trying to win these games and get the best game plan together, but also focusing on finding our battle rhythm a little bit better so we can be more consistent," Lombardi added.
Lombardi later said: "Just playing a little bit better and practicing a little bit better, getting the guys working together. Some of that rhythm may be that you had coming out of training camp, finding that again."
One way to help boost that point total is by being more consistent in the red zone, where the Chargers are tied for 26th with just a 50-percent conversion rate.
Except for Rashawn Slater, the Chargers offense is about as healthy as the unit has been all season.
Getting the offense clicking would be a good sign as the playoffs loom.
4. A rare talent
Besides Bosa's return, the other big injury news from Friday was that safety Derwin James, Jr., will not play in Week 17.
James was limited in two practices this week but was listed as out against the Rams.
James' absence means he won't get the chance to try and match his former college teammate — Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey — feat for feat.
Staley coached Ramsey in 2020 when he was the defensive coordinator, and said both players display similar skillsets and mindsets in order to thrive on the field.
"Rare size and speed. Rare athlete. Rare versatility," Staley said. "He can play any DB position on the field. Not only can he play it, but he can play it at a premium level. You have heard me talk about Derwin in that way.
"It is one thing to be able to have the skillset to play all of those places, but then to have the mental capacity, the football IQ — he is also one of the smartest players that I have ever coached, and then had to compete against now," Staley added. "You just know that he is the fiercest competitor that you can coach. I certainly wouldn't be here without him. It's going to be a great matchup for us this week against him."
Herbert said he'll be well-aware of where Ramsey is at all times Sunday.
"Jalen's one of the best in the league … he's able to line up in a lot of different places kind of like Derwin," Herbert added. "They're both two smart football players so you have to be aware of him."
5. Baker's hot run
Baker Mayfield won just one game in six starts with the Panthers earlier this season.
He's already doubled that total in three games with the Rams, winning once as a starter and getting another win while coming in off the bench in the first half.
It's safe to say Mayfield certainly has the Chargers attention heading into Week 17.
"They're going to do a good job of making sure that, Baker is comfortable with the play-calling that's going in," said Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill. "He's a talented guy. He does a good job of executing. You can tell that he feels comfortable with the plays that they're running.
"They're making it work. They look really good out there. His numbers are really up these last few weeks," Hill added.
Mayfield has thrown for 571 yards with four touchdowns while completing 69 percent of his passes in three games with the Rams.
He was at his best Sunday against Denver, completing 24 of 28 passes for 230 yards and two scores. His passer rating was 124.7, the eighth-best mark of his career.
"Only missing four shots last week and scoring two TDs, they're really coming alive," Hill said. "When Baker's confidence is high and he feels comfortable with the things that he's doing, we know that he's one of the top in the league, and that's what he has been showing these last few weeks."
Bolt Up for 2023!
Secure your 2022 Season Ticket Memberships today! Click here to learn more.